Celebration Theatre



Albert Innaurato’s sweetly engaging late 70s dark comedy Gemini, about two wildly dysfunctional but fiercely devoted urban families who share an urban Philadelphia rowhouse backyard, made waves 30 years ago for many reasons, not the least of which was the grindingly uncomfortable but amusing coming out of its leading character, who as written may or may not declare his sexual preference to his boisterous blue-collar Italian father and his confused college sweetheart on the occasion of his 21st birthday. Innaurato’s tale hasn’t lost its comedic bite—or its sincerity—after three decades, especially as rejuvenated as it is in the Celebration Theatre’s lovingly conceived revival.

As recreated by director Stan Zimmerman and played on Kurt Boetcher’s versatile set, which makes amazing use of the small Celebration space, veteran actors Peter Onorati, Stephanie Faracy and Mindy Sterling are the major reason this return to working-class South Philly in the era immediately following Vietnam still maintains its zing.

Onorati as brash Italian dad Fran Geminiani brings great depth to what could be a stock character, even managing, while advising his dating-aged son, to deliver the line: “See, a white woman is like a big hole… you never know what you’re gonna find in it,” and miraculously making it work.

Sterling and Faracy are the heart of this production as, respectively, Fran’s annoying but endearing girlfriend Lucille (who earnestly advises Judith to “heat up a coke bottle, cuz’ men aren’t worth a shit”) and their foulmouthed blousy neighbor Bunny (whose well-displayed tits and frequent suicide attempts are neighborhood legend as she whines over her midlife deterioration: “I fuckin’ got hair like hepatitis now”). Both Sterling and Faracy are absolutely on top of their game in these difficult comedic roles, expertly walking that fine line between playing a character and being one.  

Unfortunately, under the otherwise carefully articulated watch of Zimmerman, Mark Strano and Amber Krzys as the star-crossed Francis Jr. and his wealthy Ivy League pseudo-girlfriend Judith just miss the mark and keep this worthwhile revival from achieving the success it might have.


First of all, there’s no reason for Strano to play Francis as such a total cartoon geek, sometimes seeming as dorky as his mentally-challenged neighbor Herschel (Joel Michaely), but beyond that, the major problem here is that although Strano and Krzys obviously understand their pivotal roles and the storypoints they need to explore intellectually, unlike their costars, they both tend to talk in the general direction of one another with a constant, almost uncomfortable awareness of playing to an audience rather than really relating and talking to one another.

In contrast with Justin Schaefer’s continuously involved and serenely simple character choices as the object of Francis’ wet dreams, Judith’s affably naïve (but too demurely clothed… ah, I miss the 70s!) brother Randy, as well as the surprising simplicity of Michaely as the usually outrageous over-the-top Herschel, Strano and Krzys, both clearly fine young actors with lotsa of room to grow into these roles, don’t yet fare as well as the delightfully crusty old vets they’re playing opposite, from whom they’re bound to learn a few judicious lessons during this otherwise quintessential return of Gemini.

Gemini plays through June 17 at the Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., WeHo; for tickets, call 323.957.1884.

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.